Travel Time: Italy.

By Michaela Bennett.

Travel isn’t always pretty with beaches and coloured cocktails. It isn’t always comfortable; it’s the five-hour bus delays standing and waiting.  Sometimes the stress even has the potential to break hearts and friendships.  Travel is not a holiday in an all-inclusive resort, but instead, it’s a journey that changes you and leaves you with plenty of memories that you end up laughing about years later. But the adventure marks your heart and changes you forever.

Girls Trip! Something that you have dreamed of being completely mental, fun, as well as being cultural and educational, but have you ever considered that it might break your friendship? That your dream adventure will turn into stress and arguments about who is to blame for taking the wrong direction and walking that extra mile.  Well, consider it, as something like this can either break you or give you a lifelong friend.

It was Georgia’s first trip abroad, and for me, it was about the third this year, which meant we had very different expectations from the trip, but still had a mutual desire to see the whole range of Italy’s culture. With many things to see and us agreeing on everything, there was no reason to expect any future problems. Starting from Naples hitting all the major sights along the way, up to Nice in France, it sounded like the best adventure that both of our mums were jealous of.

We were not tourists, we were travellers, except for our big luggage which seemed like we had packed everything but the kitchen sink in, except it was only our summer clothes! We ate in the local dodgy corners and lived with the locals in their apartments and hostels to save money and get the real experience, but sadly our French and Italian detached us from getting the full experience.  Even so, it’s about the outlook you obtain when you travel to the unknown. So here are the best locations with all the excitement full of culture…. but first starting with sickness.

  1. Having the flu is certainly not great anywhere, but certainly everything you would hate on your travels. When all you want to do is sleep before your early start … forget that when staying in Naples!  Mopeds are buzzing and beeping about all day, and with no sense of what legal driving is. But with huge determination and our very long list, it was time to see the ancient civilisation of Pompei and Mount Vesuvius frozen in time with a yearly dose of thunder and storm along the way to make our trip even better, contributing to the disaster preserved the slice of everyday Roman life.  Pompei is one of those places that makes you think of how little you are against nature, as well as creating a connection between the distant past and the present.
  2. For me, Naples sounded like heaven, with the city that invented pizza it was certainly the first food that I would try. But sadly, the views of the sea and mountains were worth more than the pizza was.  The history and architecture too were a bit disappointing, as the city gave the impression of being hectic and dirty. To add to our delight of visiting Naples, booking the wrong bus ticket and then another bus being delayed by five hours certainly didn’t help – we were ready for Rome.
  1. Rome at night was just beautiful, even though it was just a few sights through the back of a taxi it’s certainly something that you cannot miss. Even though we were camping for the next three nights they were probably the best nights in Italy. Getting the best gelato in Italy, getting the well-deserved cocktails by the poolside was well needed, but that didn’t even touch the appeal of their architecture. From the Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, the Vatican, and of course the Colosseum, to name a few were breathtaking. This city is certainly the one to visit for a history and culture lover, it has all the culture you will need. But for us it wasn’t all just fun, the hunts for specific locations and times, as well as home trouble, was too much. The cracks in our different personalities started to show with stress, with things like how long a person takes to get ready in the morning, and now both of us were sneezing and coughing too much.  These are definitely things you don’t consider when booking a holiday with your best friend, you always imagine the amount of gossip and laughter you will have together but never these moments, as you always think of them as just the ‘boy problems’ which you discuss with your girlfriends.  Nonetheless, nothing could’ve beaten our full experience of Rome, but our passion mainly for churches and art has declined.

    Credit: Michaela Bennett.
  2. As I continue to complain about art, of course, the next stop being Florence didn’t help. Being the land of Donatello, da Vinci, the de Medici family and Michaelangelo all having left their masterpieces, it was heaven for any art lover. But what was better was the food. We all imagine eating some delicious spaghetti, pizza, gnocchi … but sadly that certainly wasn’t us. Our week of starchy foods brought about huge withdrawal symptoms of meat and vegetables, and of course, Georgia being from Ireland, ‘spuds’! So instead of search for Dante’s statue, there was a very different search that you certainly didn’t expect in the land of such talked about cuisine.
  3. Pisa being the quick hop off stop for most tourists didn’t have a lot to offer apart from their huge variety of churches and of course Piazza del Duomo (Square of Miracles), with the cathedral, baptistery and of course the famous leaning tower of Pisa. Our first impression of Pisa wasn’t great, as it gave the impression of being unsafe, which was the first and only time we felt like that through our adventure. Nonetheless, this was just a first impression, in a while it became our favourite place, from cheap food to the amazing sights of Tuscany’s countryside with wonderful busking music in the background. It was the first place we could relax, reconnect and take in all the exciting things that have happened in such a short space of time…and plan another holiday.

    Credit: Michaela Bennett.
  4. ‘Stress, stress, stress’ my mind wouldn’t think anything else. The train station was showing around 150-minute delays on a lot of trains and with our eight-hour journey to Verona, it was something that would’ve been fatal to our journey. With our big suitcases, each station was a gym exercise up and down the stairs, from one platform to another without saying anything but the platform number. The arrival to Verona was an eyeopener, thinking it was going to be a small town with nothing exciting to offer except Juliet’s house, I was certainly wrong. From the extraordinary views to amazing concerts and don’t forget the shopping atmosphere (which was much better than in Milan) I was blown away.  Verona revealed for me that you get the best experiences and memories in the least expected places, thus the famous touristy places are important, but the side cities and streets of Verona and Venice are where the secrets lie.

The wonders of Italy were not always fun and laughter, it was 7 am alarms with bickering and hangriness along the way but like with any journey; who you travel with is the most important.

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Travel Time: Italy.